Russell E. Marker Lectures in Evolutionary Biology set for Oct. 3 and 4

September 24, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Scott V. Edwards, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Curator of Ornithology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, will present the Russell E. Marker Lectures in Evolutionary Biology on Oct. 3 and 4, at the Penn State University Park campus in the Berg Auditorium, 100 Huck Life Sciences Building. The free public lectures are sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

The series includes a lecture intended for a general audience as well as a more specialized lecture.

The first, more specialized lecture, titled "Convergent regulatory evolution and loss of flight in paleognathous birds," will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3. The second, more general lecture, titled "Bird evolution: from dinosaurs to DNA," will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. A reception will be held at the conclusion of Friday’s lecture in the Verne M. Willaman Gateway to the Sciences (the bridge) on the third floor of the Huck Life Sciences Building.

Edwards studies diverse aspects of the biology of birds, including evolutionary history, biogeoraphy — how organisms are geographically distributed — and phylogeography — the historical processes that may be responsible for a species’ geographic distribution — as well as disease ecology, population genetics, and comparative genomics. He has conducted fieldwork in Australia since 1987 and conducted some of the first phylogeographic analyses based on DNA sequencing. In the last 10 years, Edwards has helped develop novel methods for estimating phylogenetic trees — diagrams of evolutionary relationships among organisms — from a type of genetic data called multilocus DNA sequences. His recent work uses comparative genomics to study large-scale evolutionary patterns in birds, including the origin of feathers and the evolution of flightlessness.

Edwards served as division director of the Division of Biological Infrastructure at the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 2013 to 2015 and has served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biologists, and the American Genetic Association. He currently oversees an NSF-funded program to increase the diversity of undergraduates in the fields of evolutionary biology and biodiversity sciences. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and a member the National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Molecular Ecology Prize from the "The Molecular Ecologist" blog in 2019.

Edwards earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Harvard University in 1986 and a doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1992. He was an Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Evolution at the University of Florida from 1992 to 1994, served on the faculty at the Burke Museum in Seattle from 1995 to 2003 and the University of Washington in 2003, and joined the faculty at Harvard University in 2003.

The Marker lectures were established in 1984 through a gift from Russell Earl Marker, professor emeritus of chemistry at Penn State, whose pioneering synthetic methods revolutionized the steroid-hormone industry and opened the door to the current era of hormone therapies, including the birth-control pill. The Marker endowment allows the Penn State Eberly College of Science to present annual Marker lectures in astronomy and astrophysics, the chemical sciences, evolutionary biology, genetic engineering, the mathematical sciences, and physics.

Last Updated September 24, 2019